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The SportsThink Weekly Review #63
August 5, 2022
Welcome to August everyone, hope the summer is treating you well. In case you’re wondering, it’s still hot in Texas.
I read a couple interesting things this week, but they can wait while we celebrate a couple legends.
RIP Bill, RIP Vin
I much prefer when heroes die old, much less tragedy and good cause for remembrance and tribute.
NBA legend Bill Russell passed away on Sunday. Russell was many things: a revolutionary center, the first black NBA head coach (in BOSTON), a civil rights icon, the man who brokered peace between Shaq and Kobe, and much more. I’d say more, but others have said it better. I really liked Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s tribute to his dear friend. For a thorough retrospective on the man, the New York Times obituary is quite solid. And this, from the NBA, is a good watch:
On Tuesday night, I was sitting on the couch, half-heartedly watching Yellowstone (which is alright, I think?) and absentmindedly scrolling online when I saw the news that Vin Scully had passed. I promptly spent an hour watching and listening to old clips; they’re all so good. He would have been 95 in November and spent a staggering 67 of those years broadcasting Dodger games. I’ve written before that I credit Mr. Scully and the late Chick Hearn for any talents I have as a speaker of English; I still think that’s true. As with Russell, there are no shortage of tributes. If you’ve got an hour to kill, just type “Vin Scully” into the search bar on Twitter and have at it. For many, Scully’s storytelling ability is what made him great, that he seemingly never told the same story twice and that he was able to effortlessly weave his tales into the rhythms of the game.
This clip has been getting a lot of love and with good reason. It’s a great example of his storytelling wizardry, just listen to the details and how seamlessly he drops and picks up the narrative:
Without a doubt, the storytelling was fabulous. I grew up on these stories, lived on these stories. But now, I think Scully’s magic was not in what he said, but in knowing when to not say anything at all. These days, I watch a lot of sports on mute. The incessant rambling of broadcasters is just exhausting, as if they are getting paid by the word or they are in some bizarro Speed scenario where a bomb will go off if they shut up. These men (and they’re mostly men) kneel (silently) at the altar of Scully. Just watch these two calls. First, is Hank Aaron’s record breaking home run (the second greatest moment in US history). Next is Kirk Gibson’s walk-off home run in the1988 World Series (the greatest moment in US history). If you must, skip to the 6:30 mark in the Gibson video, but I’m not time-stamping it because you should just watch the whole thing. The experience is similar in both clips: a massive moment followed by silence from the broadcast booth. There is so much respect in Scully’s silence, for the game, for the moment, for the viewer. The discipline and grace to just let it all soak in…that was the magic.
Then there is this. Man oh man. Art? Poetry? The human condition? I feel like there are at least 4 different lines here that would be a career-best for most broadcasters and Scully just manifests them within minutes. There’s not even video and this is the most visceral experience I’ll have all year.
As always, thanks for reading/watching. Please share the newsletter and send me the things that make your week interesting.
See you next week,
PS I couldn’t help myself. Watch his farewell soliloquy.